Southold scouts give back to Downs Farm Preserve

David Gammon (left) and Walker Sutton at Down's Farm Preserve in Cutchogue, where they recently completed their Eagle Scout projects. (Credit: Sara Schabe)

When Southold teens David Gammon and Walker Sutton were thinking of ideas for their Eagle Scout projects, they settled on the same theme: improving a local park.

The members of Southold Boy Scout Troop 6 recently completed their projects, enhancing Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue with an outdoor amphitheater and a smartphone app for visitors.

Initially, David had asked around at the preserve to see if any work needed to be done. He was given a few options: repaint the building, create a butterfly garden or build an outdoor amphitheater for the nature classes held there.

He chose the latter.

“I figured it would be something that would be here a while and that I’d be able to come back and see in the future,” he said.

In order to create a more natural look, wood was chosen as the construction material and David began building the amphitheater in October with logs donated by Integrity Tree in Sayville.

A few weeks later, the project was completed.

“My little cousin did classes here and tried telling everyone I had built the amphitheater — but no one believed him,” David said.

Walker’s project also provides visitors with an enhanced learning opportunity to enjoy the preserve. He created an iPhone app, The Downs Farm Preservation Trail Guide, which provides information to hikers about the preserve’s history and wildlife. The app, which is available in the Apple app store, contains numbers that correspond with markers on the park’s trails.

Walker said that when he began planning the project in April 2015, he didn’t have any app programing experience. But thanks to the success of the Downs Farm Preservation Trail Guide, Walker said, Southold Town plans to use it as a template for other parks.

Walker has also installed four new benches at Skipper Horton Park on Main Road in Greenport.

In addition to enjoying the community service, both scouts said their projects taught them valuable life skills.

“I tend to procrastinate a lot,” Walker explained. “I learned a lot about planning and doing things by a deadline.”

David added that the experience also taught him about leadership.

“It’s not so much what your project is that matters, but how you lead a group to work on it,” he said.

Both scouts will be honored at an Eagle Ceremony on Sunday, July 31. Other scouts receiving the rank of Eagle Scout are Sam Basel, Aidan Vandenburgh and Zach Ellis.

Before scouts begin work on their Eagle Scout projects, they need to receive approval from the scoutmaster and unit leader. They then make presentations to the troop committee before receiving the final OK.

Eagle Scout project preparations begin around a scout’s 17th birthday. Projects must be completed by their 18th birthday.

David’s father, Bob, who was also an Eagle Scout, said the process is designed to provide them with a variety of leadership skills.

“Anyone can get the merit badges, but can you really be a leader?” he said. “The more time you have as a leader, the better leader you become.”

Photo caption: David Gammon (left) and Walker Sutton at Down’s Farm Preserve in Cutchogue, where they recently completed their Eagle Scout projects. (Credit: Sara Schabe)

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